Monday, April 22, 2013


Spring has sprung! But then it got confused yesterday and it snowed, what the hell!? Here, check out some beautiful cherry blossoms, known as 桜 「さくら」 "sakura" in Japan.

Cherry Blossoms in Furukawa

As I write this, I'm standing at a "Free Wi-Fi Desk" at the Narita Airport. Gotta go home to take the MCAT. Again. Lol. I've taken it a few times already, but I studied this time more than last time, so I (should) have an improved score than before. But it's also been a while since I've last taken science courses, so it's possible that I've forgotten a few things that were inherently internalized way back in the day. It was fun reviewing general chemistry, as I was reminded of my high school chemistry classes.

My original plan was to apply to medical schools this summer, but to be honest, I'm not completely confident in my application. Schools get around 3000+ applications, and the class size is only about 150. That means that only 5% of the applicants actually end up matriculating to that school! But I believe the actual acceptance rate is about 20%, so that means three fourths of those invited to attend end up declining and going to another school. Anyway, in order to improve my chances, I think I should attend a full fledged pre-med post-bacc program. That is, pre-medicine, post-baccalaureate; a program that is held at a school of medicine to prepare students for matriculation into medical school. I have big dreams, but they require many small steps.

So besides studying and researching medical school, what have I done this past week or two? Oh, yeah, I bought the PS3 Initial D game. That's fun. Unfortunately, the Initial D series underwent a "cleansing" and got rid of many cars, including my beloved GT-Four. But that's okay, they still have RX-7's, WRX's, GT-R's, and Evo's. They even threw in an RX-8 as free DLC.

Also game-related, I'm finally an official PlayStation Plus subscriber! Yay free games! Really, though, I needed that service to copy my saves into the "cloud" so that I can sell my PS3 here in Japan and not worry about my files when I use a PS3 in the US. I love technology. Who knows what kinds of services and such we'll have in another 10 years?

I've noticed that I'm semi-addicted to Gran Turismo 5. And I think I've figured out why. It's not as simple as "I love cars." It's "I love cars and the game does a good job of giving me a reason to turn it on every day." And that reason is...a daily reward. Basically many games today (especially on iPhone/iPad) reward players for playing (or at least turning it own) every day. On iOS, the rewards usually cycle every 5 days, so when you play over the course of 30 days, you get each reward 6 times. In GT5's case, the reward is an incremental bonus to earned in-game currency and experience points, up to 200%. On day 6 and later, the number simply remains at 200%. But if a day is skipped, the number drops back down to a normal 100%.

I think modern RPGs should take advantage of this system. I played World of Warcraft half a decade ago and their system was to reward people when they logged at at certain locations ("Inns") by giving bonus experience points. And back then, they starting "Daily Quests" which allow a player to complete the same quest, once per day, and earn the same rewards (usually a hefty amount of gold). This killed the game for me, as I ended up grinding the same handful of quests for 3 weeks straight, playing the game only one to two hours a day and trying to figure out how to most efficiently earn the most gold in the least amount of time. And because it was the same quests, I grew bored of it quickly. My fault, yes, but it's their fault for trying to take advantage of players' greed. Hah.

Anyway, gotta pack up! I saw some pretty sakura on the way here. Here is a shot from my town! It was snowy and rainy yesterday. How peculiar.

Snow, Rain, and Sakura

Word of the Day: 咲く 「さく」 "saku" or "to bloom."

Thursday, April 11, 2013


So happy that my car is back! Isn't she so sexy and clean? ^_^

Misa is back!
So yeah, I'm still going back and forth between what to do about my car. On the one hand, it's old (16, older than my students!), so it has old parts that might need replacing in the next few years/months (probably the water pump), but on the other hand, it doesn't even have 90,000 miles on it, so in theory, the car should still last much longer.

But my dad is worried that if I do run into a problem, and I need to replace a part, the part either doesn't exist in the US, and I would have to import it from Japan, or the part is no longer made altogether. And that would be a problem. But daaaaaaaamn, I did a used car search using various websites (Kelly Blue Book,, Edmunds) and anything within my price range is some old crapper with 150,000 miles on it! I feel like it would be more worthwhile spending the money on a car I'd want to bring it back. But my buddy Oreo has reminded me again of the headache involved in the process.

Other than cars, I've been stressing out about the medical school application process. Today, I investigated the "committee letter," and apparently, requirements have significantly become more steep. 100 hours of clinical experience with a letter as proof? 20 hours of shadowing a doctor? What the hell? How is an undergrad supposed to do that, let alone a post-bacc like me? It's getting me worried again. But I'm not gonna give up! I won't let these annoying hurdles stop me from my dream. I have set a goal, and dammit, I will see it through.

Last weekend, I went with a coworker to Ishinomaki, one of the areas damaged by the tsunami. There, we volunteered at a local community center where we served food and entertained guests. I was the token foreigner, so I had the pleasure of surprising people with my English and the phrase "no, I'm not Japanese!" I was assigned the task of assisting in the kid's corner, where I helped kids make a cake dessert and do arts and crafts like folding origami. I also taught them the word "spork," which in Japan is called a 先割れスプーン "sakiware supuun," which literally means "spoon with the tip divided."

I will be home in a few weeks, but only temporarily, to take the wretched Medical College Admission Test. My studies over the past few months have given me some confidence that I will do better on this test than before. But I'm beginning to get concerned about my overall application. I need to have a solid personal statement as well as a good explanation for my previous life choices (moving to Japan, working at UPMC, etc.). No use worrying about it though. Just gotta remain focused.

It's getting late, so I should sleep. But I'll leave you with this, a song that I can't get out of my head, and something which I've been practicing on the guitar. Goodnight!

Word of the Day: 迷う 「まよう」 "mayou," or "to waver" as in being unable to decide upon something.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


I haven't been able to study AT ALL today, or much this week. Which is sad, because I haven't had any classes this week, so in theory, it should have been an opportune time to study. My goal for tomorrow is to blaze through a few chapters of my review.

Anyway, the big things that have been distracting me today were mostly e-mails. One big batch of e-mails for MAJET: planning the upcoming Art Show, setting up PR (twitter, e-mails, websites, etc.), taking care of orders for publications by National AJET, handling Micro Grant Fund stuff which was set up in honor of Taylor Anderson.

The other thing that has been distracting me is my car issue. My parents replied back to me regarding my concerns, and my dad gave his advice:

Harold, my advice is for you to dispose of your car due to:
1) age of car is 16 years old - too many old parts that may have no U.S. equivalent for replacements.
2) legality of using wrong-positioned steering wheel on U.S. roads.
3) cost of tariff tax at port of entry.
4) transport cost.

Best to do:
1) Do not make any repairs now - only those necessary
2) Sell car as is to the incoming educator taking over your position or anyone else.
3) start with a brand new car in the U.S.
4) kiss your car goodbye - thanks for the safe rides it provided.

All very good advice. But heartbreaking, because I love my car oh-so-much. Also, got some bad news, Dad. I had to take the care in for its biennial check-up and it needed to get its muffler replaced. Considering all the maintenance it has already experienced, doesn't it mean that the car will be working well in the future? Or does that mean it's "prone to injury" and I should expect damage to other parts if I brought it back to the US? I need to talk to a mechanic about all this; especially one with import car experience.

If I can't/shouldn't bring it back to the US, hopefully I can sell it here. If I were to buy a new car in the US, I've been eying the new ハチロク Hachi-Roku, a.k.a. Toyota 86, a.k.a. Scion FR-S, a.k.a. Subaru BRZ.

Toyota FT86 G Sports Concept

Word of the Day: 注意散漫 「ちゅういさんまん」 "chuuisanman" or "distraction" or "lack of attention."